Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Glorious Revolution

"'The glorious revolution was necessary,' Patel declared. 'Emperor Hans restored order and purged corruption.'"

(Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy, New York, 2012, p. 220)

Potentially, Patel's declaration has two resonances for present day British subjects. First, Patel's name makes him sound like one of our Muslim neighbors, I mean right here on this street! Or maybe also like the owner of an Asian grocery shop.

Secondly, our present British Constitution enshrines the revolutionary settlement resulting from the Glorious Revolution, so called, of 1688, when the King and his heirs were appointed by Parliament, not by divine right. If we see it that way, then we can still, like the French and Americans, experience the exhilaration of living in the aftermath of a revolution that was successful and that changed society from that time onwards. The British Establishment does not want us to dwell on that particular lesson from history.

Back to the Patel in the Terran Empire. His problem is that, when a revolution has been successful, it is not only permissible but obligatory to declare that it was both glorious and necessary but what is to be said about the next attempted revolution (Cairncross) or the one after that (Magnusson)? In an age when unresolved social contradictions tend to generate revolution after revolution, then Flandry's answer seems to be unavoidable: Hans was the least bad contender after the old dynasty had broken down but now there must be an end to seizures of power.

7 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    As a Catholic, I am somewhat ambiguous about the so called "Glorious Revolution" in the UK. After all, it was based on hatred of Catholics and expulsion of the legitimate heirs for no better reason than them being Catholics. And I certainly agree James II was not the wily, shrewd politician his brother Charles II had been. If he had been, James II would not have made the mistakes he made.

    But, like you and Flandry, I agree there has to be an END to violent seizures of power if we are to hope for anything better. Flandry backed old Hans Molitor only when it was plain the legitimate Wang dynasty had irretrievably collapsed soon after the death of Josip III. And because Hans was the best of the contending war lords.

    Sean

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  2. Well, at least if Macauley gave a minimally fair account of events and the personalities involved, James the Second had grave faults aside from being of a different religion from most of his English and Scottish subjects. He might have remained on the throne as a Cathloic, and won greater toleration for Catholics, if he had been willing to respect the rights of his subjects in other ways, and not earn a reputation for cruelty and perfidy.

    Regards, Nicholas

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    1. Hi, Nicholas!

      Thanks for your own comments, even if I don't agree with them. First, Lord Macaulay has been criticized for partisan axe grinding as regards James II. I would like to know what a somewhat older contemporary of him, Fr. John Lingard, wrote about that period. Fr. Lingard's HISTORY OF ENGLAND has been praised for its meticulous scholarship and scrupulous accuracy. But I do agree that James II made mistakes which his enemies gleefully seized on to depose him and exiling him and his descendants.

      I do have David Hume's HISTORY OF ENGLAND, and I used to think it was good, despite Hume's irritating anti Catholicism. But not long ago I saw severe criticisms of Hume by another historian charging him with making many mistakes and even outright lies. So, I'm no longer sure I can trust Hume.

      I've also read Churchill's HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLES, and while free of annoying anti Catholic slurs, it's necessarily had to be some what COMPRESSED if he wanted to cover both English and American history in a reasonable space.

      Sincerely, Sean

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    2. Dear Sean,

      I haven't read the books you recommend, although I have done some reading on 17th century Britain in addition to Macauley. Granted, Macauley did some axe-grinding, and I have read criticisms of his work. But if, whatever you think of his opinions, and his selection of events to push his views, his account of events was at least minimally accurate, James the Second does not come off looking good.

      Some day, perhaps, I should study that period in greater depth.

      Regards,
      Nicholas

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    3. Hi, Nicholas!

      It's been a long time since I read much about James II but the impression I recall is that all that he had done was at least arguably legal. His basic error lay in pressing too far formally legal authority that powerful factions would no longer agree to tolerate. King James lacked both Charles II's realism and the affable bon homie which had made him so popular.

      Sean

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  3. I think the main issue from the Glorious Revolution is Constitutional Monarchy as against Absolute Monarchy?

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Kinda/sorta, I agree. But it was not absolutely so. After all, James II did not try to ABOLISH parliament. It really goes down to the old argument over how much actual, direct power the Crown could exercise. And, of course, James II's Catholic faith was used by his Whig enemies as an instrument in deposing him. I still think the basic reason James II was overthrown was because he simply was not the kind of wily, shrewd politician his brother Charles II had been.

      James II is usually admiited, even by his enemies, as being an honest, straight talking, upright person. But he lacked Charles II's ability to determine what it was possible for him to do, to know how far he could go.

      Sean

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